Crowned sifaka (Propithecus coronatus)

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Crowned sifaka fact file

Crowned sifaka description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderPrimates
FamilyIndriidae
GenusPropithecus (1)

With its dark chocolate brown or black head and creamy white body (2), the crowned sifaka appears to be a highly distinctive lemur; however, it was once considered a subspecies of either Propithecus verreauxi (Verreaux's Sifaka) or Propithecus deckenii (Van Der Decken’s Sifaka), and has only recently been given full species status, based on its unique cranial features (1). Its creamy white fur may be tinged with golden brown on the shoulders, upper limbs, upper chest and back, lightening to golden yellow towards the abdomen. This discoloration, more prominent in male crowned sifakas, is caused by secretions from glands on the chest. The hairless face is dark grey to black, sometimes with a paler patch across the bridge of the nose, and whitish ear tufts that stand out against the dark, dense fur of the head (2). Although sifakas gain their name from the shee-fak call they make to maintain contact within their group, sifakas are actually rather silent animals (4).

Synonyms
Propithecus verreauxi coronatus.
Size
Total length: 87 – 102 cm (2)
Head-body length: 39.5 – 45.5 cm (2)
Tail length: 47.5 - 56.5 (2)
Weight
3.5 – 4.3 kg (2)
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Crowned sifaka biology

As it moves through the upper canopy of the forest, the crowned sifaka searches for buds, unripe fruits and mature leaves on which to feed (2). The crowned sifaka uses its long, powerful legs to propel itself between trees, whilst keeping its body upright; this highly specialised method of locomotion, known as vertical clinging and leaping, is characteristic of all sifakas (4). While sifakas do not come down to the ground to drink, gaining the water they require from their diet and dew instead (4), the crowned sifaka can occasionally be seen on the forest floor, consuming soil (2). This peculiar feeding behaviour is hypothesised to provide vital nutrients, or to aid neutralisation of poisons that accumulate from the sifaka’s regular diet (2).

Typically, the crowned sifaka spends 30 to 40 percent of its day foraging, while the rest of the day is spent resting, grooming, and interacting socially with other members of the group. At night fall, a tall tree located close to a major river is selected to sleep in (2).

Living in groups of two to eight individuals, the crowned sifaka travels an average of 600 metres each day as it forages (2). Each small group of crowned sifakas, which have variable age and sex composition, aggressively defend home ranges covering 1.2 to 1.5 hectares (2). Although, within this range, the majority of the group’s time is spent in a small core area of just 0.3 hectares (2).

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Crowned sifaka range

The crowned sifaka inhabits a small region of north-west Madagascar. Its range lies between the Mahavavy and Betsiboka Rivers, and individuals have also been reported in isolated areas further south (1) (2).

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Crowned sifaka habitat

Although primarily an inhabitant of dry, deciduous forest (2), from sea level up to an altitude of 700 metres (1), the crowned sifaka may also occasionally visit mangroves (2).

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Crowned sifaka status

The crowned sifaka is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Crowned sifaka threats

Like the other sifakas of Madagascar, the crowned sifaka is threatened by habitat loss, as the forest it inhabits is lost to charcoal production and converted to pasture for livestock. In some areas, this endangered species may also be hunted for food and captured for the pet trade (1).

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Crowned sifaka conservation

The crowned sifaka reportedly occurs in two protected areas, Ambohijanahary Special Reserve and Kasijy Special Reserve (1), and it is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade of this species is prohibited (3).

While this offers the crowned sifaka some level of protection, further conservation efforts are required for this endangered primate, such as protecting other vital populations, and conducting surveys of certain forests that may hold populations of the crowned sifaka (1).      

To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
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Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of Madagascar’s primates see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Garbutt, N. (2007) Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. A&C Black Publishers Ltd.
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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Image credit

Crowned sifaka in tree  
Crowned sifaka in tree

© Nathan Harrison / www.nathan-harrison.com

Nathan Harrison
Tel: 07812003420
nathan@nathan-harrison.com

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